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Chapter Six

T N spite of Su Tungpo's brilliant record, he had to start from the
-^bottom. Late in 1061, the sixth year of the reign of Chiayu he was
given the rank of a councillor of justice and the office of an assistant
magistrate at Fengshiang, with the power of countersigning reports
and official communications with the court. In the previous Tang
dynasty, the country had suffered from decentralisation, and at the
end the dynasty had fallen as a result of rebellion among the provincial
governors, who were often princes of royal blood. The Sung dynasty,
therefore, tried to correct this evil by centralisation, concentrating its
army around the capital and devising a system of checks and controls
for the magistrates in the provinces. Magistrates' terms of office were
usually three years, so that they were constantly shifted around. The
system of having assistant magistrates with the power of counter-
signing official memorandums was a part of this set-up. Tseyu also had
been appointed to an assistant magistracy at Shangchow; but their
father's work was at the capital, and one of the brothers had to stay,
as it was unimaginable to leave the widowed father living alone. Tseyu
*^therefore declined the appointment. After he had seen Tungpo and his
family as far on their way to his post as Chengchow, a distance of
forty miles, the two brothers parted for the first time in their lives, and
Tseyu returned to live with his wife and father for the three years
while Tungpo was away. Tungpo watched his brother riding on a
thin horse in snow outside the West Gate of Chengchow, his head
bobbing up and down above the sunken road, until he could see him
no more. And in his first poem letter to his brother Su Tungpo wrote:

"Why is it that I feel like being drunk without wine? When
your horse turned back home, my heart went home with it. I knew
you were thinking of our parent, but now what am I to do with
myself? I went up the slope and turned back for a last look, and
saw your black hat bobbing up and down beyond the ledge. I was
sorry that you were so thinly clad in this weather, riding on a skinny
horse in that declining moonlight. A few passers-by came my way
singing and laughing, and the servants wondered why I looked so
sad. I know that there must be parting in this life, and I fear the
months and years will too quickly pass over us. Remember, my
brother, whenever you sit in the lamplight on a cold evening, how
we promised each other that one day we shall sleep in opposite beds